Tuesday 25 February 2014

Review Management in 2014 - all your options examined

Although online reviews, in their many guises, have been around for over a decade now, many businesses still struggle to find the right solution. That's mainly because their are so many 'solutions': here we summarise and comment on these...

Old school


Since time immemorial businesses have used testimonial marketing...

'The following ... is a sample of thousands of testimonials'

Pros: Relatively easy to harvest and display

Cons: Lacking the credibility of independence - there is a better way.

New wave

Reputation Management

Sounds good, but consistently fails to deliver.

Pros: There are dozens of reputation management agencies who will sign you up today.

Cons: If someone tells you that they'll fill your Google search with positive results, look very hard for the downside: it will ultimately mean paying hundreds (if not thousands) a month for little of significant value and when Google change their search algorithm (which they do all the time) all the negative results will resurface. You can't beat Google.

In House

An interim solution adopted by some businesses, many advantages.

Pros: Displays customer opinions, gains customer feedback, enables management to adjust strategy.

Cons: Lacking the credibility of independence - there is a better way.


Fine for products*, dangerous for services 

Pros: efficient and simple to operate, has the essential independence that gives credibility.

Cons: A single negative review of a pair of shoes or a camera may not be crucial*, but one of a service indicating that it was less than fantastic has the potential to do deep and long-lasting harm.

*some online retailers actually find published negative reviews helpful, simply because they are at liberty to change their suppliers; when it is your business supplying the product or service negative reviews are extremely harmful

External Feed

At first glance - an easy and obvious solution 

Pros: Welcomed by consumers, credible

Cons: No control for the business: the example above was taken - today - from Best Western US's own website. It is essential to have some mechanism whereby you can address negative comments pre-publication. Not anything sinister (or just plain 'editorial control, which lacks any credibility at all) but a channel that is more attractive for dissatisfied customers than posting on a public site

HelpHound's Dialogue


We have been in the business of review management since 2006; over that time we have listened and we hope we have learned. Dialogue form HelpHound is the result of all that listening and learning: we have addressed all the 'cons' and incorporated all the 'pros' in order to perfect a review management system which we are proud to set against anything available worldwide today.

Expressly designed to drive new business by maximising all the opportunities that reviews present whilst minimising all their threats: Dialogue™ for businesses in 2014.

Monday 17 February 2014

New from TripAdvisor for 2014 - TripConnect

Probably the biggest fundamental shift since the launch of TripAdvisor, TripConnect has now been live for three months. Time for us to comment then!

What is TripConnect?

Effectively a CPC version of TripAdvisor where anyone (including the hotel) can bid for a booking link. Here's a good description on Tnooz.

What are the advantages?

TripConnect effectively puts the hotel itself on a par with the OTAs. 


But at a cost. Here's a comment from a B and B owner:

Each hotel or group will be able to crunch their own numbers and determine ROI, but two aspects are clear:

  1. Your reviews and ranking are now of even more paramount importance. Guests will refer to these before booking. Here's a great post by Greg Bodenlos at Revinate - we agree with every word.
  2. Most Preferred Partners are not recommending their clients subscribe to Review Express; that makes sense as there is no way of making sure it doesn't generate unwarranted negative reviews.

Don't sleep-walk into the same situation as hotels

So what happened to hotels?

In 2001 a tiny travel site was founded. Outwardly its aims appeared altruistic enough, especially for travelers - and even helpful to hoteliers: it would enable travelers to read opinions of fellow-travelers' experiences in hotels and, crucially, help them choose the right hotel.

It was what happened next that made all the difference: TripAdvisor realised that if it teamed up with online travel agencies (OTAs) like Booking.com it could earn money, lots of money.

The OTA business model

Is so simple it's untrue: use your muscle to make sure travelers book indirectly through you. Start off free, then gently ramp the commission/pay per click you charge.

Next time you find yourself sitting down with friends just drop this bombshell into the conversation:

"Did you realise that booking a hotel room online can cost up to 28% more?" 

...and see how they react.


That's the commission the hotel will be paying on your behalf to the OTA. A £100 room - £72 for the hotel - £28 to the OTA.

But it did not start out that way - first they gave hotels the bookings for free, then they introduced a small commission. The hotels welcomed the service, after all, it saved them having to market themselves and it exposed them to a world-wide audience. It was only when the hotels were well-and-truly hooked that rates rose to where they are today.

So, you may well be asking yourself, what has this got to do with my business?

Well, by now we all know that if someone somewhere on the web is making a killing (and the OTAs are making a killing) then that business model won't take long to be replicated. You won't need to look hard to find an equivalent to TripAdvisor or Booking.com in other sectors.

Here are just some examples:

Estate agency

Financial services

Small businesses of all kinds


There is another way!

You don't have to be passive. If you decide to give your potential customers what they are being offered by these sites - independently verified reviews - you won't end up handing over the bulk of your profits to middlemen.

Monday 10 February 2014

No more fake communications

If you only spend 45 minutes on your marketing this week, spend these 45 minutes.

Advertising is SO over (and if that sounds like your teenage daughter speaking, please bear in mind that she'll be your core consumer in ten years' time).

The Naked Brand encapsulates everything we have been saying about the future of advertising since HelpHound was founded back in 2006. Here are just some of the words of wisdom...

"Real-time, up-to-the-second, truth."

"Does it happen to [your business] or do you participate?"

"The choice: stop the revolution or participate."

"Turn confrontation in conversation."

"Clear is the new clever - clever doesn't work any more."

"Invest more in your product and less in your advertising."

"Transparency is no longer a choice."

"Change is hard when you are a successful business - but it's a must."

"No more fake conversations."

And: "Ratings and reviews will be projected wherever we want." 

Our review of The Naked Brand

Great video, great research, great talking heads; only one slight flaw: the focus, yet again almost entirely on products. Consumers like product reviews, in some cases LOVE product reviews, but they NEED reviews of SERVICES even more.

There is a time about half way through the video where the core message ('listen and react to what your customers are saying') risks getting confused with the green message, but we loved some of the examples (Pepsi and Chanel - guess who wins that one?) and the way Zappos call-centre staff interact with their customers - and we were delighted to see our old friend United Breaks Guitars make a guest appearance.

But the point comes across loud and clear: engage with your customers and use that engagement to drive your business's success. This video is a must-watch for anyone involved in marketing at any level.

Monday 3 February 2014

How long will it be before our TripAdvisor ranking begins to improve?

It's a question we are often asked, so here's the answer for a hotel that joined three months ago:

By the way: the hotel in question obeys our '5 golden rules': 
  1. Get as many guest email addresses as possible
  2. Warn guests that they will be asked for a review
  3. Email them on the day of check-out
  4. Respond to every review in Dialogue
  5. Respond to every review on TripAdvisor